Anticipation. Excitement. Unknown. Solidarity. Grace. Kindness. Pathways to change. Heard. Empowerment. Empathy. Tired. Kindness. Laughter. Pride. Joy. Truly historical. Upset. Livid. Confused. Grieving. Deflated. Disheartened. Embarrassed. Irritated. Frustrated. Powerless. Exhausted. Wearied. Weepy. Angry. And yet, there is hope.
All of these emotions and experiences swirled around in me over the last twelve days. And yesterday as I drove back again from Oklahoma City for a meeting, the walkout ended.
This was not a huge shock. While teachers in and outside of the Capitol held strong and rallied for change the majority of legislators were not budging. The senate leadership proclaimed they would hear no more revenue raising bills. The house leadership refused to hear bills the senate already passed. Earlier this week it felt like maybe one or both sides would crack, but Wednesday afternoon I felt us reach an impasse. While those legislators present listened, the majority of the super majority had canned answers. It felt like the majority of the Republican caucus had “lawyered up”, if you will.
We could keep showing up and cancelling school, but in what should be the people’s house, I do not believe the outcome would change. While our presence was known our voices were no longer heard.
As I unpacked my Mary Poppins “protest bag” last night all of those swirling emotions swelled into another ugly cry as I unloaded Larabars, post-it notes, handouts with mixed and incorrect facts, headphones and chargers among many other random things. I needed to grieve what I know was not a loss.
I think I held a huge part of this entire process in my mind and tried to keep my heart and my emotions at bay. While I feel the cuts and I know the faces not fully funding direly effects, I wanted to dialogue without relying solely on pathos in hopes to build my understanding and those who hold the power’s understanding. Do not get me wrong, I passionately felt this experience and I hope that was conveyed.
So, as the walkout ends I grieve and I celebrate. It is easy to look at this and wonder what on earth we accomplished. I encourage anyone stuck here to consider HB 1010xx probably would not have passed if we had not set April 2nd as our deadline. With the repeal of hotel/motel our pressure helped to “fill” some of that revenue. Beyond logic, the time we collectively spent at the Capitol, on street corners with signs, volunteering to serve, walking to Tulsa, organizing, on buses and in cars – that time sparked something.
Wrapping up my tenth year in education I can’t pinpoint a time in my career when I spent so much time with adults who were mostly teachers talking. No classes to teach, no stringent schedules, no content, no objectives. Y’all, we got to be with each other.
When legislators would not listen, we shared stories. We mobilized. We shared snacks and pens and toilet paper. We ate meals of Mazzio’s pizza together. We strategized and came up with talking points as we waited in and outside of offices. We broke records as many people waited in yet another line to file to oppose those who did not anticipate an opponent. And I think we began to see the power we hold.
So yes, I grieve that we did not walk away with what felt like a big win. It hurts. It hurts for us but it hurts more for the children we know are not going to get what they need. But I walk away knowing this was not in vain.
This was just Rocky. We went our fifteen rounds. We knocked Creed down for the first time in his career with our presence, our persistence and our gumption. We got the attention of our state and our legislators. They know we mean business. The saga continues much like the Rocky movies. We will grieve. We will continue to mobilize. We will ensure the general public is engaged and informed. We will support campaigns. We will vote in primaries in June and elections in November. We will be back to go another fifteen rounds.
And guess what, I’ve seen Rocky II. I know how the next chapter ends. Spoiler alert, Rocky wins. If we keep this momentum and new found spark, so will we.